TrustMovies didn't catch THE COMPANY MEN when the film opened theatrically at the beginning of this year. (It actually opened last year, briefly, in an "Oscar"-qualifying run in New York and Los Angeles but was shut out entirely at awards time.) The economic downturn was -- still is -- going strong, and supposedly, America did not want to be further reminded of this when it went off to the movies for its feel-good fix. Oddly enough, while the film does deal with the huge spike in unemployment that arrived with and after the Wall Street/bank/real estate debacle, The Company Men proves to be a feel-good movie, after all -- but one strewn with job loss, depression, anger, even death.
John Wells, at left,who comes by way of producing, mostly for television, does a number of smart things in his film, and the smartest is leaving out the villain role. Craig Nelson, below, as the head of the company, comes closest, by virtue of being the wealthiest and making the decision to downsize enormously. Yet even he is shown to be a hostage to Wall Street and his shareholders. The rest of the stellar and well-used cast are all heroes, of a sort. They take their falls, continuing to strive until they no longer can, and they bounce back -- or not. They're angry, short-tempered, self-pitying and very, very human.
Kevin Costner (at left), who has also been very good of late, even in films that were not, plays Bob Walker's construction-worker brother-in-law, who ends up his boss for a time. The filmmaker and his actors capture well the breach between white and blue collar, as well as the ways in which families can, with some extra effort, broach that breach.
Best of all is Tommy Lee Jones, below, as the "good guy" of the company's top management who, even so, can't help staunch the bloodflow. As Gene McClary, Jones brings his ocean-deep reservoir of strength and decency to the proceedings by showing us a man who's been trying to do the right thing, even as that possibility continues to edge away from him.
Maria Bello, as Sally Wilcox, the company's human resources person, who also happens to be having a long-time affair with Jones. Here's a character who serves her company, even as she serves herself, and Bello makes the most of the difficult contradictions.
Chris Cooper's by a long shot. Playing a 60-year-old, suddenly-unemployed man with a kid in college and too many bills to pay, Cooper (center right, above) makes us feel every gray hair, wrinkle and unintentional slight that age must endure from callow, so-sure-of-itself youth.
Up in the Air. This is film for progressives to see and cherish, and I hope they will. Making its DVD debut last month, via Anchor Bay Films and The Weinstein Company, the movie is available now for rental or sale.